Nelson College - 05/09/2012

1 Context

What are the important features of this school that have an impact on student learning?

Nelson College is a state secondary school for boys in Years 9 to 14. The roll comprises approximately 1100 students, with 195 boarding in one of three hostels that are on the campus. The numbers of students in the college and in the hostels are both on an upward trend. Many come from a rural background, and 13% identify as Māori.

The college has a long history, and students and staff are proud of its traditions. Its vision is to equip students with the skills, knowledge, attitudes and values that they need to fulfil their potential as citizens in the 21st century. High priority is given to promoting a sense of belonging among students.

Demographic shifts have resulted in increased diversity in the student population. The college continuously responds to the changing needs of all learners. International students and refugees are valued as contributors to the multicultural character of the school.

2 Learning

How well are students learning – engaging, progressing and achieving?

Students are highly engaged in learning and make good progress over time. An increasing percentage of students remain at the college to Years 13 and 14. Reduced numbers of disciplinary interventions are further evidence of the college’s effective strategies to engage all students in learning and the life of the school.

In 2011, the percentage of students who left the college with a National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) Level 2 or better was significantly higher than in comparable schools nationally. The numbers of Māori students leaving Nelson College with this qualification is 70%, compared with 45% nationally.

Years 9 and 10

Literacy and numeracy levels of students in Years 9 and 10 are carefully monitored by the English and mathematics departments. Achievement data is recorded electronically and teachers access this information to inform their planning. Progress and achievement are measured using nationally-normed and school-developed assessment tools. Results are analysed, tracked over time and reported to parents.

The college’s records show that in 2011, many students made accelerated progress in literacy and numeracy. Overall patterns of achievement demonstrated that most students made the expected learning gains.

Achievement of Māori students is collated and analysed separately, to enable departments to identify patterns and develop strategies to raise Māori student achievement.

Achievement in other learning areas is assessed by a range of methods and reported to parents.

Students are encouraged and supported to take increasing responsibility for their own learning and progress.

Years 11 to 13

Senior students at the college gain NCEA, as well as Industry Training Organisation (ITO) and New Zealand Certificate qualifications.

In 2011, the percentage of students gaining NCEA at Level 1 was similar to that in comparable schools nationally. At Levels 2 and 3 and University Entrance, the percentages were higher. Highlights included the number of merit endorsements in Levels 1 and 3. The 2012 strategic plan set targets for further raising achievement at Level 3 and increasing excellence endorsements.

Over half of students leaving the college in 2011 had Year 13 qualifications.

Māori students’ achievement in NCEA has fluctuated over the past three years. In 2010, they achieved significantly higher results at all levels than Māori students in comparable schools nationally. In 2011, their results were similar to national percentages in Levels 1 and 2, and lower in Level 3. The college’s 2012 target for success in NCEA is to exceed the levels of Māori student achievement in similar schools nationally.

Pacific students, who comprise just under 3% of the overall senior school roll, achieved well in Level 1 2011, but lower percentages gained Levels 2 and 3 than in previous years. With small numbers, results for this group fluctuate. The progress and achievement of each student is monitored and responded to appropriately.

3 Curriculum

How effectively does this school’s curriculum promote and support student learning?

The college’s curriculum is driven by the board’s outcomes-focused strategic goals: academic excellence; personal development; and sense of belonging.

Areas of strength

Senior leaders have developed a curriculum that effectively meets the changing and increasingly diverse needs of individuals and groups of students at the college. The curriculum is appropriately structured to provide differentiated learning. This approach is evident in:

  • timetabling for Year 9 and 10 mathematics and English classes
  • learning support classes in Years 9 and 10
  • external examination such as the 'Cambridge' course for enrichment at Year 10
  • 'schools within school' in Years 11 to 13.
  • The senior curriculum comprises three flexible strands, which are equally valued:
  • trades academy
  • mainstream (NCEA Levels 1 to 3)
  • enrichment (aiming for excellence endorsements and scholarships).

Some students move between these different pathways.

Trades Academy

The college has recently completed a new trades centre, which has industrial-standard equipment and high quality facilities. Teachers in the centre are industry-experienced and well qualified to assess at ITO level. The centre was built with strong business and financial support from the local community. Courses include construction, building, carpentry, light engineering, light fabrication and automotive engineering, food and hospitality, fish and game. Students learn and work in authentic contexts, making valued contributions to the environment and community. A third of students at the college take part in these courses, full time or part-time.

Quality of teaching

Teachers effectively engage students in learning. Interactions are respectful, friendly, and cooperative. Positive relationships are evident between teachers and learners. Staff demonstrate a strong commitment to professional learning and development. All teachers regularly engage in a range of opportunities for collaborative reflection and planning. They use research and achievement data to examine and strengthen their teaching practice and promote student learning, progress and engagement.

Career education and guidance

Students receive highly effective support as they make decisions about learning pathways from Year 9 to Year 13. School-wide career education and guidance is cohesive, sequential and effectively coordinated. The department uses robust tools to evaluate the effectiveness of programmes and interventions. The biennial ‘Careers Expo’ is designed to meet the identified needs of boys at the school, and includes a range of seminars to cater for a range of interests and aspirations.

Learning support

Appropriate support is provided to students who need additional assistance to make the expected progress. Adults and senior students mentor learners to foster their engagement and promote their achievement. From Years 9 to 13, there are particular classes for which the explicit aim is to improve students’ literacy skills. Specialist knowledge and software are used to help students with individual learning needs. Refugees and other students for whom English is a second language are well supported.

Areas for review and development

Teachers should continue to strengthen planning and implementation of personalised learning programmes based on analysed student achievement information.

With the recent appointment of a Special Education Needs Coordinator (SENCO), it is timely to review the learning support and special needs provision, to ensure that there is school-wide shared understanding of roles and responsibilities in this area.

Senior leaders and teachers need to further integrate Māori and Pacific dimensions and cultural elements into the curriculum and daily classroom practice.

College leaders have identified continued promotion of academic excellence as a strategic priority. ERO’s evaluation confirms this as an important goal in raising outcomes for students.

How effectively does the school promote educational success for Māori, as Māori?

The college effectively promotes educational success for Māori students as Māori. Its strategic plan incorporates aims to enhance the cultural and physical infrastructure of the school to reflect Māori tikanga. A plan to raise the achievement of Māori students is being implemented. Strong leadership and advocacy from a group of highly committed staff is evident. The board has co-opted an iwi representative, who plays a key role in decision-making. A range of strategies and initiatives is in place to increase Māori students’ sense of belonging, affirm their identity and engage them in learning.

A new wharenui, Te Ara Poutama, has raised the profile of te ao Māori in the college. Students participate with pride and success in kapa haka and Ngā Manu Kōrero. Māori students value the opportunity to be in the whānau homeroom, where they are supported and mentored in an environment guided by tikanga and manaakitanga.

Māori students benefit from the ‘schools within a school’ structure of the senior curriculum, and from the wide range of learning support strategies in place to raise their achievement.

The college has determined that mentoring for Māori students is to be extended. Leaders also recognise the importance of further involving parents and whānau in students’ education, and are exploring ways to strengthen iwi and hapu links. ERO’s evaluation supports these aims.

Continuing to build staff knowledge of and confidence with te reo me ngā tikanga Māori is a key area for development.

4 Sustainable Performance

How well placed is the school to sustain and improve its performance?

The college is well placed to sustain and improve its performance.

Areas of strength

The charter and strategic plan are soundly based on consultation at board, staff, parent and student levels. Consequently, knowledge of and commitment to the college’s direction and priorities is well understood and supported.

Self review is well developed at senior leadership, department and board levels. Annual department reports are a key element in the college’s knowledge of the effectiveness of teaching and learning. Clear frameworks and structures have been established for inquiring into the impact of programmes, and a critically reflective approach is demonstrated school-wide.

Trustees are supportive of senior leaders’ management of the curriculum. They are well informed about student achievement, and resourcing decisions reflect their knowledge of areas of greatest need in raising students’ achievement.

Leadership and management are highly effective. The principal and senior leaders articulate and model practices that contribute to ongoing improvement in outcomes for students. Leadership capability is built throughout the school by delegating responsibilities and enabling staff with strengths to share these with colleagues.

A collaborative collegial approach is strongly evident among staff. Teachers support each other in a school-wide culture of professional learning.

The overall tone and climate in the college is calm, positive and inclusive.

Student leaders have key roles and responsibilities. They are well supported and mentored, and are effective role models in the college.

Student voice is actively sought, valued and responded to.

Areas for review and development

Senior leaders and ERO agree that the next step in strengthening self review is to raise the quality of those department reports that have room for improvement. This can best be achieved by regular monitoring and feedback.

The appraisal system and its implementation need further refinement to ensure that areas for professional development are identified, acted on and followed up.

Provision for international students

The college is signatory to the Code of Practice for the Pastoral Care of International Students established under section 238F of the Education Act 1989. At the time of this review there were 70 international students attending the college.

The college has attested that it complies with all aspects of the code.

College staff know international students well, and a high level of monitoring and care is evident. Students receive good academic and pastoral support.

ERO’s investigations confirmed that the college’s self- review processes for international students are thorough. The director recognises the need to gain an overview of the quality of outcomes for international students as a group. The next step is to formalise and document review and reporting procedures and practices.

Provision for students in the school hostel

The college boarding houses, Rutherford, Fell and Barnicoat, accommodate 195 students, or 20% of the school roll. They are owned by the Nelson College Board of Trustees.

The boarding houses are:

  • overseen by a director of boarding, and staffed by housemasters, supervisors, and school staff who work closely with the college to provide holistic care for each boy
  • administered in a way that promotes a warm, safe and supportive environment
  • well-maintained, with a good standard of accommodation and ongoing upgrades to meet the needs of the boarders
  • supportive of open and regular communication with parents, students and management
  • responsive to boys’ diverse cultures, including international students
  • managed using a model that seeks students’ and parents’ views, encourages leadership and has clear routines and boundaries for student conduct.

A recent survey indicated parents were generally satisfied with their sons’ accommodation and care provided.

Board assurance on legal requirements

Before the review, the board of trustees and principal of the school completed the ERO Board Assurance Statement and Self-Audit Checklists. In these documents they attested that they had taken all reasonable steps to meet their legislative obligations related to:

  • board administration
  • curriculum
  • management of health, safety and welfare
  • personnel management
  • financial management
  • asset management.

During the review, ERO checked the following items because they have a potentially high impact on student achievement:

  • emotional safety of students (including prevention of bullying and sexual harassment)
  • physical safety of students
  • teacher registration
  • stand-downs, suspensions, expulsions and exclusions
  • attendance.

When is ERO likely to review the school again?

ERO is likely to carry out the next review in four-to-five years.

Joyce Gebbie

National Manager Review Services Central Region (Acting)

5 September 2012

About the School



Ministry of Education profile number


School type

Secondary (Year 9 to 13)



School roll


Number of international students


Gender composition

Boys 100%

Ethnic composition

NZ European/Pākehā



Other ethnic groups





Special Features

Boarding hostels

Attached private preparatory school (Years 7-8)

Outdoor Education Centre

Review team on site

June 2011

Date of this report

5 September 2012

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

Education Review

Education Review

June 2009

May 2006

November 2002